Are the olympics worth a rainforest?
“Ecological Holocaust” spans the width of a homemade banner outside a hotel in Copacabana, Brazil. “IOC go home, you are nature killers,” yells a protester as the International Olympic Committee emerges. High-tempered encounters like these between environmental protesters and the Olympic Committee have come to be known by the media as “Rio Ruckus.”
During the last days of February and into the first few of March, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) conducted a visit to Rio, the site of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, to check up on the progress the city is making in preparation for the Games. The recent visit has fanned the flame of an already present controversy about the environmental impacts of hosting the Games.
Activists claim that the Games are an environmental atrocity, noting that there are many different issues that could be attributed to the Games.
Locals are outraged that the Olympic golf course is being built on a nature preserve. According to Occupy Golf, an organization formed to inform the public and protest Rio’s new course, the course is estimated to cover the habitats of more than 300 endangered species and take the place of around 100 rainforest trees.
Athletes are also concerned about the state of Guanabara Bay, the site for the water events.
Locals recently discovered thousands of dead fish surfaced on the shores of the bay, and although the cause of the massive die-off is currently unknown and under investigation, it is a worrisome event for both athletes and Olympic enthusiasts. 20 tons of fish and other sea creatures have already been removed.
Not only are the waters filled with dead fish, but debris in the bay is also a huge concern for athletes.
Brazilian sailor Thomas Low-Beer recalls a day practicing for the Olympic qualifying race.
“I think it was a couch,” he said in an interview with The New York Times, referring to the object that caused him to capsize during the practice.
“[The bay is] really disgusting, with dog carcasses in some places and the water is turning brown from the sewage contamination,” Low-Beer said regarding the Olympic bay.
If that wasn’t enough to raise red flags on the Rio Games, specialists from the Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, a public health research institution in Rio, have also recently discovered a strain of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms in the water.
According to a statement released be the researchers, if the athletes come in contact with the bacteria, they can fall ill or become carriers of the disease.
The building list of environmental issues is becoming a hot-button topic. With the conclusion of the IOC’s check-up, the public demanded a response to the issues Rio is facing.
In statement on their website, the president of the IOC, Thomas Bach, insists that the Games are still worth the environmental downsides.
“So, again, it’s clear evidence what a positive legacy these games are leaving in infrastructural, social and environmental areas,” Bach said in response.
This controversy poses an interesting question; are the Olympic games worth the subsequent issues?
It is relatively indisputable that the Olympic Games bring an unrivaled amount of excitement, sportsmanship and unity to the world.
Athletes have a chance to showcase decades of training and fans from hundreds of different countries are connected by a common love of sports. Not to mention, hosting the Olympics brings an unforgettable legacy and earns the city a place in the selective few nations who have been hosts.
Whether or not the Olympic Committee should turn a blind eye to issues in the spirit of the Games will continually be debated.
Protestors and debaters on this issue tend to take either one side or another, however I believe the solution lies somewhere in the middle.
The environmental issues could be controlled if the Olympic Organization would create a third-party regulatory committee. Then there would be an unbiased monitor to decide when the host city committee or the IOC has committed any sort of violation.
This way, we can control any issues that may arise while still protecting an event that brings excitement, unity and Olympic Spirit to the world.